The Benefits of Character References for Court

What are the benefits of character references for court?


When should I use a character reference for court?

A character reference is usually used in sentencing proceedings, where an accused person has pleaded guilty, or found guilty by a Magistrate or a Judge. Character references can only be used as evidence at sentencing proceedings. They are not able to be used at defended hearings in the Local Court, or Jury Trials and hearings in higher courts. Character references can be used as a very powerful tool to demonstrate to the court that others see you in a positive light, and and confirm that you are held in high regard.


Which courts will accept my character references when I am being sentenced?

Generally, all courts where criminal matters are heard will accept your character references. However, as a matter of practice, character references are given less weight in the higher courts during sentencing proceedings. The higher courts prefer to hearing character evidence by oral examination, that is by the referee appearing at court to tell the court in person about the offender’s character. The Local Court, however, will almost always take into account your character references in determining the sentence that should be handed down. In fact, you will find that almost all solicitors will ask their client’s to provide character references in sentencing proceedings in the local court.


What should a character reference contain?

Some of the things that a character reference should contain:

  • The full name of the referee,
  • The relationship the referee has with the offender,
  • How long the referee has known the offender,
  • The referee’s opinion of the character of the offender,
  • The referee’s opinion about the offender committing the offence;

and many other things.

Each character reference in each case of course will be different, depending on the circumstances of the case and the offender’s personal circumstances. There is no real ‘equation’ to writing a character reference, just that they be genuine, open and honest.

Remember…Magistrates and Judges are very intelligent people!


What are the benefits of character references for court?

There are countless benefits of having good character references for court. Some are:

  • To show that you are respected and admired by others in the community,
  • That the offence is seen as out of character by others,
  • To show that other’s continue to support you despite your criminal offending,
  • To show that you have displayed remorse to others for your behaviour,
  • That you have done good things for others and the community,

and many others.


Should I get character references for my court case? If so, how many?

If you are being sentenced, you should always have some supporting material to show that you are a person of good character. Written properly, a character reference could mean the difference between a sentence of full time custody and a non-custodial sentence!


At LY Lawyers, we will provide you with the write character reference guides to ensure that your referees fully understand what needs to be written, how to write it, and how the letter should be formatted and set out.

Call LY Lawyers on 1300 595 299 for a free consultation.